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Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus vs. iPhone 12 Pro: Go Plus or Pro?

If you’ve been excitedly waiting for the new Samsung Galaxy S21 range, wait no longer! These new flagship handsets are now available for purchase. But if you’ve got your eye on both the iPhone 12 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, how do you decide which to buy? Choosing between these two phones isn’t as easy as it looks — but we’re here to help. We’ve compared these two phones across six core categories, from display to performance, and picked a clear winner. Which one should you buy? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Size 75.6 x 161.5 x 7.8mm (3 x 6.4 x 0.31 inches) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 202 grams (7.2 ounces) 189 grams (6.67 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution  2400 x  1080 pixels (394 ppi) 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 ppi)
Operating system Android 11 with One UI 3.1 iOS 14
Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (Exynos 2100 outside the U.S.) Apple A14 Bionic
RAM 8GB 6GB
Camera Triple lens 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 64MP telephoto rear, 10MP front Triple lens 12MP wide, ultrawide and telephoto rear, 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 8K at up to 30 fps, 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning connector
Fingerprint sensor Yes (in-display ultrasonic) No, FaceID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery  4,800mAh

25W wired charging (No charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

2,815mAh

Fast charging (No charger included in the box)

MagSafe wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, Phantom Violet (Phantom Gold and Phantom Red made-to-order) Silver, graphite, gold, Pacific Blue
Price Starting at $1,000 Starting at $999
Buy from Samsung, Amazon, Apple
Review score 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Pick up the new Galaxy S21 Plus, and the first thing you’ll notice is its matte glass back and flat front display. The vertical camera stack is reminiscent of the Galaxy Note 20, while the bezels on the S21 Plus are slightly thicker than those on the Note 20. In comparison, the iPhone 12 Pro’s angular, flat-edged body and glossy glass back aren’t a world away from the feel of the S21 Plus, but the bezels are slimmer.

If you’re looking for the lightest phone around, neither fit the bill — as you’d expect — but the iPhone 12 Pro weighs in at 189 grams, whereas the S21 Plus is a bit of a behemoth, at 202 grams. Those with smaller hands or anybody who prefers to use their device one-handed may prefer the iPhone 12 Pro’s smaller dimensions too — a 6.1-inch screen compared to the S21 Plus’s 6.7-inch display.

You can expect both displays to look gorgeous — the iPhone 12 Pro’s Super Retina XDR OLED display boasts 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 ppi), and although there’s no 120Hz refresh rate on offer, the True Tone tech and wide color gamut ensure beautifully rich and bright colors, so you won’t go wanting. In contrast, the S21 Plus’s FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen has a lower resolution at just 2400 x 1080 pixels (394 ppi), but for those who spend a lot of time gaming on their phone, the 120Hz refresh rate offered on the S21 Plus might just swing things in its favor.

Both phones are IP68 rated, so both are safe for a dunk in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. The iPhone 12 Pro also has Apple’s new Ceramic Shield Glass over the display, which Apple claims boosts durability by protecting against drops and damage.

Ultimately the larger screen, 120Hz refresh rate, matte glass back, and sophisticated Mystic Violet color — which we’re really excited for — just give the S21 Plus the edge in this round.

Winner: Galaxy S21 Plus

Performance, battery life, and charging

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S21 Plus is powered by the Snapdragon 888 processor, the most powerful Android processor currently available in the U.S. (or the Exynos 2100 elsewhere in the world). This means it should handle the latest apps with ease, and with 8GB of RAM, multitasking and working with newer applications should be a breeze.

In contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro is powered by the A14 Bionic Chip, a highly capable processor that should also handle the latest apps, games, and multitasking without any difficulties. Where the iPhone 12 Pro pales in comparison to the S21 Plus is its 6GB of RAM, which may result in a small difference in performance when multitasking. The iPhone 12 Pro’s standard model comes with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage, while the S21 Plus comes with 128GB or 256GB — and the SD slot has gone the way of the headphone jack, so the storage you buy is all you’ll ever have.

One of the most noticeable differences between these two phones is the battery size. The S21 Plus’s 4,800mAh battery will comfortably see you through a full day of heavy use — and probably into the next day too, while the iPhone 12 Pro’s 2,815mAh has a noticeable smaller capacity, but should still see you through a day of moderate to heavy use.

Neither phone comes with a charger although both come with a cable — for the S21 Plus, you’ll need to pick up your own 25W wired charger or use a wireless charging pad (15W). iPhone 12 Pro users can grab a standard charger, 20W fast charger, or MagSafe charger.

This round is too close to call — while the S21 Plus has a bigger battery and supports 25W wired charging, there’s no SD card slot to upgrade the storage, and both processors provide similar performance.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21+
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Both handsets have a triple rear camera setup, with the S21 Plus boasting a 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12MP wide main, and 64MP telephoto lenses compared to the iPhone 12 Pro’s 12MP offering all around. Despite the S21 cameras being identical to the S20’s camera lineup, the telephoto lens on the S21 Plus gives it a small advantage here — but the iPhone 12 Pro’s telephoto does support 2x optical zoom for enhanced detail in zoomed pictures. Speaking of enhanced detail, the iPhone’s 12MP ultrawide lens has an f/1.6 aperture, which Apple claims offers a 27% improvement in low-light performance, while the Ultrawide lens has Night Mode that activates automatically under low-light conditions. It’s really difficult to take a bad photo with the iPhone 12 Pro.

The S21 range supposedly boasts Samsung’s “best smartphone cameras yet” — which we assume refers to the various modes and enhancements rather than the camera spec itself. An A.I.-enhanced portrait mode and Zoom Lock stability with A.I. keep your subject central even when zoomed, Night Mode enhances noise reduction in low-light conditions, and Samsung has brought back its 100x Space Zoom, too, although unlike the S20, the S21 Plus doesn’t have a time-of-flight sensor. For video, Vlogger View lets you shoot video with the front and rear cameras simultaneously — a bit of a gimmick, but one we can imagine ourselves using. The cameras really aren’t that different from the S20 Plus though — and taking a decent photo in low-light conditions or indoors can prove challenging, where textures are often overly smoothed, particularly with faces.

It’s a close one, and the S21 Plus’s extra features are certainly impressive. However, the iPhone 12 Pro has one of the best cameras around, so it wins this round.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy S21+
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The S21 Plus ships with Android 11 and Samsung’s One UI 3.1, whereas the iPhone 12 Pro runs iOS 14. Samsung’s One UI may not feel quite as intuitive as Apple’s ecosystem, but Samsung generally promises three generations of OS updates — and if you already own one of the Note 20 series phones, you’ll feel right at home.

If longevity is a concern, we’d recommend sticking with Apple to ensure your device continues receiving software updates for as long as possible, although you shouldn’t run into any issues with the new S21 Plus for several years.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Special features

MagSafe iPhone 12 Pro Charge
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As well as its noticeably bigger battery, the S21 Plus features A.I. battery management to improve battery life — great news for those always running out of juice.

Both phones boast 5G — with the iPhone 12 Pro supporting all varieties, including mmWave, sub-6GHz, and mid-band frequencies, which are being rolled out by some carriers. The S21 Plus also supports every 5G band you could want or need, and the new Wi-Fi 6E standard.

The iPhone 12 Pro has MagSafe — a ring of magnets in the back of the phone that allows you to connect standardized accessories. You can pick up a $39 MagSafe charger from Apple, which provides 15 watts of power (more than a standard wireless charger) and is also great for gaming. MagSafe products can be made by any accessory company, and we’ve already heard about some great ideas — car mounts, multidevice desk chargers, and more. If you don’t usually use a case on your phone, you’ll be pleased to hear you don’t need to use a specific company’s case in order to use that company’s accessories.

The iPhone 12 Pro also has a TrueDepth camera, which lets you unlock your iPhone and pay for items at stores using Face ID. Face ID also enables Animoji and Memoji, fun little avatars that you can use for FaceTime calls. Unfortunately for Samsung, the iPhone has a lot going for it.

Winner: iPhone 12 Pro

Price and availability

The iPhone 12 Pro is available directly from Apple in graphite, silver, gold, or Pacific Blue. You can pick up the 128GB model for $999 or the 256GB model for $1,099. The 512 GB model will set you back $1,299.

You can buy the Galaxy S21 Plus directly from Samsung from January 29 and get $75 free Instant Credit for add-ons, a free Samsung SmartTag Bluetooth tracker, so you’ll never lose your keys or wallet again, and four months of YouTube Premium. Pick up the 128GB model in Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, or Phantom Violet for $1,000 — or opt for Phantom Gold or Phantom Red, both made-t0-order Samsung Exclusives. The 256GB model starts from $1,050.

You can also pick up the S21 Plus from Best Buy starting at $950, and from Amazon and other retailers.

Overall winner: iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro is the better of the two phones, but it’s a very close match. Both the Galaxy S21 Plus and the iPhone 12 will set you back around the same price for the base model with 128GB — and both have powerful processors that handle most apps and multitasking with ease, gorgeous displays, and a sleek design. The iPhone 12 Pro may boast better resolution, but the S21 Plus has that 120Hz refresh rate, and both have similar offerings when it comes to cameras and storage. It’s all a bit of a trade-off depending on your preferences. Ultimately, both phones are an excellent buy, and it may end up coming down to the age-old question: Apple or Android?

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